To Muslin or Not to Muslin

To Muslin or Not to Muslin

Burdastyle raised this question this week with a how-to article.  I was surprised at the reaction of some of the commenters on the blog. I am always interested in what my readers have to say.
Do you muslin?  
Muslin Fabric
Our current muslin of choice
I don’t recall ever being taught the concept of a toile in my early sewing days, although I know my Mom would often make a wearing muslin for me or my sisters before using the final fashion fabric. Once I got serious about perfecting (oh, still so far from that goal!!) my sewing skills, I learned the importance of a muslin.  I have tried a number of techniques:
Using unbleached muslin of various weights and finishes. This is my go-to method.  The fabric is inexpensive, easy to stitch, easy to write on, soft enough to allow for a sense of  draping.
Using gingham check to take advantage of the grid—I only did this a couple times and have left this method behind in favor of others. It may be successful for some people, but I got too caught up in the check.
Using a similar fabrication to the final fashion fabric.  I use this when the fashion fabric I have chosen has a drastically different weight or drape than a muslin fabric that will impact the final fit in a significant way.  I would use this method for knits as they are so unpredictable, but trying to get one knit to act like another is a challenge all its own…see Alma’s Knit Knacks Sew Along for more discussion of knit muslins.
Using a similar fabric to my final fashion fabric and finishing the garment (a wearing muslin).  I hardly ever do this, but I have friends who use this method religiously.
Once I learned the benefits of making a muslin, I rarely make a new garment without a test first.
I have always used the muslin concept to make parts of a garment that I want to perfect. For instance,  if I know the shoulder or bust or midriff is going to present a fit problem for me, I muslin just that part of the garment.  I have made many half bodices just to work out a design detail that may impact the fit. My body is relatively symmetric so the half bodice works.  If you vary a great deal from one side of your body to the other, this would not work.  I also make practice pockets, buttonholes, hems, whatever I think needs some tweaking…what are scraps for anyway??
Another benefit of a muslin is the reuseability factor.  If you love your finished garment and hope to make the same pattern again in the future, pack that muslin with the pattern and you can make fit adjustments again on the same muslin to accommodate body changes (none of us experience those do we??)
All in all I  believe muslins are well worth the time.  I do think there is a danger of using all your precious sewing time as practice time.  So don’t fall into the trap of never completing a garment because its not perfect!  There’s a happy meeting point there for everyone’s sensibilities.
Please share your ideas…

3 Responses to “To Muslin or Not to Muslin”

  1. Pat


    I almost always make a test garment because I have to make so many fitting adjustments.  I usually use plain cottons of different light colors for the front, back and sleeves.  I find that the different colors make it obvious if the side seam doesn’t hang straight or if the sleeve droops off the shoulder too much.  I stumbled on this method by accident once when I was hunting through my stash for leftovers to use.  Now I pick up various light colored cottons whenever I see them on sale or in the leftover bins.

  2. patty


    I am new to this site.  I am making a decorative jacket that uses either
    muslin or flannel for the base.  My problem is that it is a multi-sized pattern.  Does anyone know of any large size tracing paper or some medium such as that you can see thru.

    Thank you,

    Quilting Queen

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